Sunday, July 27, 2014

Run For Your Life

This was the second of the detective Michael Bennett series. The character is still fresh, I was looking forward to reading this book to see more about the character, and I kind of have a crush on his Irish au pair :)

the story line was fast paced and exciting all the way through and of course, like most Patterson novels, once you are in the story, you are in for the long haul - which is not all that long, one of my favorite ways about his writing style.

There's no need for a big long thing here, if you like a good thriller and want something that moves along nice a quickly but and hold your attention throughout - oh, did I mention a nice twist?


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Sweet Smell of Psychosis

Dubbed a "Novella", the size of a large pamphlet (89 pages), I read this on the plane en-route to Las Vegas. I picked this one up on a recommendation noting that is was "odd and a quick read"; both were understatements.

I feel like I should offer up the brief synopsis provided by the publisher, this is the paragraph they are using to "sell" the book:

"A brief and brilliant satire of magazine hacks and fashionistas, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis shows Will Self - a writer acclaimed as "a masterly prose-maker" by London's Sunday Times - at the top of his form. It looks as if it's going to be quite a Christmas for Richard Hermes, powdered with cocaine and whining with the white noise of urban derangement. Not so much enfolded as trapped in the bosom of the most venal media clique in London, Richard is losing it on all fronts: he's losing his heart to Ursula Bentley, a nubile and vacuous magazine columnist; he's in danger of losing his job at the pretentious listings magazine Rendezvous; he's losing his mind courtesy of Colombia's chief illegal export; and, worst of all, he's losing his soul ... to Bell. Bell is a newspaper columnist, radio host, television personality - but more than that, he is the kingpin guiding the ship of media scandal through the lower depths. From his headquarters in the Sealink Club he pulls the strings that control the disseminators of drek and gatherers of glib. And he has had Ursula Bentley and just about everyone else, female and male. As Richard pursues the Jicki perfume wafting from Ursula, he is in fact being drawn into a much more sinister web. Murky, paranoid, and hilarious, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis is Will Self at his best."

Depending on who you are, that has the potential to at least sound somewhat interesting, right?

I might recommend that if the synopsis above is even the least bit interesting to you, that you might want to just stop there - reading the book may just end up disappointing you. This is a poorly written story that reads like you had the displeasure of getting trapped in an elevator with a sad sack who on the brink of a breakdown decides to pour out his tortured soul and all you could get from it is how bad you wished you were deaf and mute.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fearless Fourteen

I grabbed this for some light reading after a few heavier things. In previous reviews of the book or two before this in the long running Stephanie Plum series of books by Janet Evanovich, I talked about how they are somewhat boilerplate and may have reached their full potential already. If "Fearless Fourteen" is any indication of what may follow (as of this writing, there are 7 more already published), then I am happy to admit being wrong.

This book was great! Why? It did everything I want a book to do, kept me interested in something from page 1 to the last page. I laughed out loud reading this book, I mean guttural belly laughs. Aside from some of the regulars, a few new characters appear here that are sheer entertainment.

If you've been reading the heavy stuff lately, you know, the Walter Isaacson, David McCullough, Stephen King, or other deep into it big story or biography and just need a little break with something that will make you laugh and still manage to have a story, and a mystery - go ahead and grab this book - there's no prerequisite for ever having read any of the 13 books int he series that came before.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Black Moon

This book came to me in one of my favorite ways, it just stared me down on the new release shelf at the library. I kept looking, then walking away. Finally, I picked it up and read the inside sleeve:

"Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs know. Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed..." What the heck is going on here? I internally bellowed, then moved to another area of the library, further in the back.

I grabbed a bit of light reading off the shelf, knowing it had come time to read something light to balance some of the other stuff I've read recently. As I got back to the front of the library, it stared me down again, again I opened the flap and read further:
"He ventures into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness..." I continued to read, placed the book back on the shelf, took two steps toward the circulation desk and then went back and grabbed it. I don't know if it was the eye on the cover, the unique concept I saw on the inside cover or some mysterious aura - regardless, I felt compelled to give this book a go.

What I loved most about this book is that it does not suffer from what so much of what has flooded the book and especially the film world in the last few years - an amazing lack of originality. The originality concept alone grabbed my attention and even held if for the most part. I made a point of not reading any other reviews of this book until I finished it and I am glad that I did so.

I agree with some of what's been said, it's not perfect - but really, who the heck am I to make such a claim? In the end, there was never a time I didn't want to see this story to it's end and while I wish I were somewhat more fulfilled at the end, I still feel like the originality was enough to keep me interested throughout.

There came a point where I started to see this book as an alternate take on the all to common, especially in the current mainstream, zombie story and it turns out, others saw this as well. For me, zombies are so over done, I have zero interest in anything to do with them but this book really is much more than any of that. One of the key elements that makes this story interesting is that as far out as the underlying concept of insomnia as an epidemic may be, as it is depicted in Black Moon, it feels to me like something that could really happen and that, adds just the right amount of terrifying to the already interesting.

The back flab bio of the author, Kenneth Calhoun, indicates he is from my neck of the woods and teaches as a college just a hop, skip and a jump from where I work. A fine first novel worthy of a read in my all too humble opinion.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Paul Stanley- Face the Music:A Life Exposed

Earlier this year I read both Ace Frehley's and Peter Criss' autobiographies. I've been a Kiss fan for almost the entire 40 years they've existed - so I remember a bit of how I felt when they went through so many of the changes and I recall the hype, the press, so much of it.

What I recall of course, is my perspective. What reading these three books gave me, was their perspective. I have to admit, there was a part of me after reading Ace and Peter's books and the whole Rock and Roll hall of fame drama unfolding at the same time, I was prepared to think that maybe Paul Stanley, someone I've always admired, was kind of a dick.

A few weeks ago, I was at dinner with a friends and among the crowd was a musician that worked with Paul Stanley and he had only wonderful things to say about Stanley and his character. then, I read this book and it gave me a sense that maybe Ace and Peter are asshats. Don't get me wrong, I'm still their fan, but their words along with Paul's version kind of make it pretty clear to me that they are pretty jerky and make it hard for me to feel bad about them in any way.

Of course, I have to take this book with a bit of a grain of salt as well, but in general, I found myself believing what I read and gaining a new respect for Stanley completely outside of the scope of his being the guy in Kiss I've know for the past four decades.

I think this is a good read, while there are some things about it that are appealing beyond his fan base, getting to them will require the dedication to read all 450 some pages. For me, it was a no-brainer, I enjoyed it all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Earlier today, a friend of mine posted some political article. I told him I had no intention of reading that when I was totally immersed in a hysterical cancer memoir. I wasn't kidding.

Five years ago, "Bald" Bryan Bishop was told he had in inoperable brain tumor and given a scant 6 months to live. He had only recently proposed to Christie, the love of his life and they both thought they had their whole lives in front of them.

This book is not only a story of survival, beating the odds, staying positive, true partnership, and chock full of great "Tumor Tips" right from the chrome domed young man himself - it is also truly one of the greatest modern day love stories I've ever read.

I was amazed at just how much I laughed through this book, Bishop's wit and ability to add levity to such a serious story I think tells much about the man himself. Let's not forget Christie, his love, his partner, who remained not only by his side, but demonstrated a love, a true and deep love and devotion that you just don't witness as often as you should in this world.

Kudos to you Bald Bryan, what a wonderfully told story and what a great gift not only to your fans, but to everyone who reads this book.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Great Deliverance

"The Inspector Lynley Novels, who wrote them again, oh, Elizabeth George, read those, those are good." That's what one of my colleagues told me as we were discussing books. My crazy form of OCD always wants to start these series from the beginning, even though it isn't always necessary. "A Great Deliverance", released in 1988, was the first of the Inspector Lynley novels and that is where I started in my discovery of Elizabeth George.

As I jumped into this novel, the first thing I had to adjust to was the British sensibility and back drop. While George is an American, born and bred, the Cast and locale of her story in in Great Britain and while I am not a stranger to these sensibilities, it's not a common thing for me and it takes some adjusting.

This book took me a long time to read, and while I adjusted at some point to the mindset, I never really rallied for any of the characters until the very end of the book. While the end was quite intense, overall, I was left with something missing and still have an uncertainty that lingers.

Since starting the book, two more people I know have raved about their love for Elizabeth George including one, an avid reader, English major and library buff, referring to George as her favorite writer. This all encouraged me to hang in there and forge ahead, and despite finishing this book with no real sense of how I feel about George as a writer, will at least get me to read another of her books.

After all I've already said, I can't clearly say that I liked this book but I am not certain I can in good conscience say that I didn't like it. I know, I am no help at all, right? Should you give it a whirl? That's going to be your decision - somewhere down the road, I will grab another of her books and try again.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

It's been awhile since I read a novel from start to finish. Actually, that's a lie. The problem is, now that I've sort of switched to e-books (don't kill me), I kind of forget which books I read or that I read books at all. I guess the physical act of turning every page from one to finish really does have more of a lasting impression. Anyway, I see that my friend, Chris, has basically been carrying this blog for a long, LONG time, so I figured it's time I threw in my *cough* yearly *cough* submission.

For awhile now, I've heard of this book. Apparently it's all the rage with preteens and teens alike. I actually really like young adult literature. It's a not so well-kept secret that I would love to write a book for that age range one day. So I try to read what my students are reading so that I can kind of keep up with the whole "cool teacher" vibe. It's nice to have a discussion with my students that doesn't involve math equations or the "why aren't you doing your homework" tone.

So, enter Divergent. According to the youngin's who have recommended it, it was "better than The Hunger Games." Hmmm. This I've gotta see.

It took me awhile to read this. A lot of stop and go, but I was determined (and, quite honestly, forced) to finish it.

Well, it's definitely in the same realm as Hunger Games. I don't know if I would say it's better or worse. Just different. It's got the same idea in the sense that it's in the future and the city is divided up into factions where you are born into and then chosen for one (based on strengths) when you turn 16. You could either choose to stay in the faction you already occupy, or you could change it all together whereby you essentially disown your family and vice versa.

Of course, with every sci-fi(ish) novel, there has to be turmoil and corruption somewhere along the lines for it to work. Well, one of the factions (not telling which one -- okay, I can't remember which one) is plotting to basically pull a Hitler on another faction until the heroin of the book, Beatrice "Tris", saves what could've been a bigger disaster than one that already played out (and took the lives of both her parents).

Tris is divergent which means she doesn't really belong to one faction, but has the quality of many. Apparently, this is a very dangerous thing to be and could get her killed if people (the wrong people) find out about it. Book one of the series (there are three) ends in a way that would obviously lead to book two, so no resolution is in sight.

If you like young adult novels and you like sci-fi and you like The Hunger Games, then chances are you'll like this book. I haven't watched the movie yet, but will probably catch it when it comes out on DVD.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The 8th Confession

The eighth installment of "The Women's Murder Club" series (which as of this writing is now on book 13), did it's job for me - it provided a quick read, with familiar, yet interesting characters, had a story that held my interest, and served as a nice pallet cleanser for a few deeper reads of late.

I am pretty certain that in a review of an earlier book from this series I professed my crush on main character "Lindsay Boxer", I may even have mentioned the briefly lived TV series based on this group of characters and stories. It had been a long time since I read #7 so I guess partly that length of time along with the timing, added to my enjoyment of this book.

At it's core, you have a murder mystery, there's, as their often times is, a b-story, in this case, another murder mystery. Add the lives of the 4 main female characters, and the back drop of San Francisco - and there you have it.

I've had my issue with Patterson of late, in the grand scheme of things, I've read about half of his work - 50 something books thus far and in some instances, the stories seem boiler plate and diluted. This book held my interest and was not a waste of time.

I just read everything I wrote here a realize two things, it's a bit disjointed and more of me convincing you that this book wasn't bad rather than say how good it was and I guess that's just where I am with Patterson. There are some really great books of his that I've read, a few that really were a waste of time - this was a good one; somewhere above the middle of that spectrum.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mortal Fear by Greg Iles

As I closed the book after finishing it yesterday, I began to simply stare at it and repeatedly kept saying, "WOW!" My daughter was intrigued enough to inquire, so I chatted with her about how great this book is.

Folks, I've read a good number of books, certainly enough to know be able to say that writers like Greg Iles are very few and far between. Not taking anything away from some of the greats that we all know and love butthis guy really is something special, this is the second book of this that I read and both just blew me away.

You can read the synopsis out there on any of the book sites if you want to know more about the story, which is wonderful! I can tell you that because this book was written in the late 90's, there are a number of dated references, but that does no detract in any way form the character development, the imagery or the story line and incredible pace.

Folks, this is as good a book as I have ever read. I wish I was able to find a large print version to ease the middle aged eyes but every squint was worth it. WOW!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sunday's at Tiffany's

After the intensity of the last book I read, I was looking for a palate cleanser, something light to read. This book, "Sundays at Tiffany's" is one of his, what I refer to as, romance novels. It's an odd genre to think about and probably inaccurate if for any reason that it might get lumped in to something similar to those old Harlequin Romances.

I have no idea about those Harelquin books but I assume there is no real character development or story - just schmaltzy stuff. I don't know. I didn't have huge expectations for this book but thought it would be fine. By the end, I kind of fell in love with Jane Margaux and really like this story.

I know, look, this is very lifetime movie-is in concept and I know a movie was made - I'm not gonna touch that. Like I said, I wanted something light to read and in the end, I found a story that was part fantasy, part love story, and had some charm to it.

While reading this book, I was able to put aside reality and just relax and enjoy the moment of the story and what more can you ask for in a book? If you are looking for classic literature or some brilliant work of fiction, this is not the choice. If you just want to get lost for a few hours in a nice story with a happy ending - take a chance.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Last Time I Died

I was in a library a few towns away from me, perusing their tables with all of the books they are trying to get you to notice when I saw this one looking back at me. The title alone was enough to capture me but further investigation to the back cover, I learn the main character is from Brooklyn and the story is based in NYC...sold.

This could very well be the darkest piece of fiction I've ever read yet Nelms manages to add levity at just the right points, allowing the (morbid) curiosity of the reader to remain intact - just what will Christian Franco do next? Or more accurately, what won't he do?

The high cost of sanity and piece of mind are always at play in this amazing novel that author of "A Reliable Wife" Robert Goolrick writes, "Like a junkie, once you pick up this book, you do not put it down until after the dope is gone."

Let me wet your beak just a little without ruining the story. Christian Franco, the main character, finds himself in "a downward spiral - divorce, career, friendships, family, etc. Trying to piece together memories repressed from childhood, when, as he knew it, his father killed his mother, it turns out that traditional therapy just doesn't cut it for him. No, for Christian Franco, the only way to gather a piece of his past is by dying; then, it becomes a matter of how may times can one die and survive and will it be enough to finally be at peace? Will it be enough to see the light?

This is a must read, a really well crafted piece of fiction that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


A one time voracious reader of Stephen King, the last thing he wrote that I held to read was "Lisey's Story" and I never really got into it. I've left King behind for the last, I don't know, I guess close to a decade. For how much I loved so much of what he wrote, I found myself hating some choices he made, I didn't like the direction the fabled "Dark tower" series took, and had grown weary of his excessive verbosity; so I took a much needed break.

I had been recently thinking about maybe picking something up by him again and the other day, I was at the Wellesley town library and saw "Joyland" sitting there. The cover was all I really needed, plus the fact that it wasn't 800 pages. The whole look of the paperback had a very old timey, dime store novel feel, turns out, that was the intent.

I finished the book this afternoon, and I am not certain if I can recommend it or not. I can say that what I liked about it, I loved, really loved. But, there were things I didn't love, in fact, things I really hated. Right off the bat, it took almost a third of the book before the story even began. Almost one hundred pages in building characters that were irrelevant or developing main characters that could have been done in a third the space. For me, this is a chronic King condition - and it really makes me mental.

In the end, I loved the actual story, but it seemed disjointed at times trying to find itself within the intended genre while blurring the lines from what the name Stephen King invokes just upon hearing it. I don't feel like I wasted my time reading this, I really like a few of the main characters and their interactions but I am not sold on how the story was told.

Your choice.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Peter Criss: Makeup to Breakup - My Life In and Out of Kiss

Having read Ace Frehley's book a few weeks ago, I was eagerly anticipating this one and actually decided to read it sooner than I had planned after seeing Peter Criss interviewed on "That Metal Show".

Where I found myself constantly questioning how much of what Ace wrote was revisionist, I found Peter to be quite believable and in some regards, this book not only gave me Peter's story, but helped me to better frame what I read in Ace's book.

Peter didn't pull any punches here, he told the stories, even when it was him fucking up and that's not an easy thing to do. There are things that he wrote about that made me not like him very much, this guy was one of my idols growing up and I've always been such a fan but aside from his "Rock and Roll lifestyle", which I do not judge or begrudge, some of his attitude as a musician kind of bothered me. For example, he often talked about when his drum parts were recorded for an album, he would just no longer show up for the rest of the sessions. I have a hard time standing behind that especially since one of his biggest struggles was to be respected as a band member. It's hard for me to justify that kind of attitude, in my opinion, a band should be united and there for each other through the entire recording. That said, who knows how it would have played out considering how awful he was treated. It's easy for me to offer opinions and thoughts but those moments in those moments may have been a very different thing, so I do thing he deserves the benefit of the doubt as well.

When I saw Peter talk on his recent "That Metal Show" appearance, I was pretty moved about his thoughts on the whole debacle with Kiss' (long overdue) induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. having had that fresh in my memory while reading this book, along with the very end of the book, I do believe Peter Criss is a different man today than through those very tumultuous years in Kiss, the years when Gene (and Paul) shifted the idea of Kiss being a "brand, over a band."

As a lifelong Kiss fan, it's hard to read about the bad times and the egos and bullshit. The whole idea of that band was to create a mystique, a fantasy that took you out of the ordinary everyday life and just take you into that moment, that fantasy - there was music and theater. I'd rather not have know about the smoke screens but as I am no longer that little kid whose mind is blown by the fire breathing and the theatrics, I realize that behind it all were real people.

As difficult as reading this book was, it was a well written book and as a fan of the band, and of the "Cat Man", I am glad to have read it.
One of the most moving pieces of this story is the revelation that Peter Criss is a breast cancer survivor. That's right! I am sadly in the minority of men that understand that men can get breast cancer! I think it's important to be sure that awareness is increased and that we all do our part to raise awareness. Rock on Cat Man!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Great Gatsby

Considered by some to be the great American novel. "A classic", at least in terms of age, and while most people pushing 50 have read this book, usually in school, I somehow managed to never read it - until now.

Sadly, I regret taking the time to read it because quite frankly, it's not a very good book! I love the period in time in which it was written and in which the story takes place. However, those moments of imagery don't stand up to the bore fest of this poorly written and poorly conceived of story.

I'm not going to spend much more time talking about this because it just isn't worth the time. I will say, the single most notable take away is how obvious it is to me after reading this just how much the English language has changed in the last century; and for the worse in my opinion.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Don't Tell Anyone

Reading this book happened by accident, or perhaps fate. Regardless, sometimes something falls into your lap for a reason and having read it, I am quite glad that I did.

I read the first few pages out of curiosity, and quite frankly, I wasn't quite sure this was going to be something for me. Then I read the synopsis on Amazon, again, I was still unsure, though a bit less.

I had just finished a book and didn't have my next one waiting, and the library was closed; so I thought, my sister-in-law likes this author, can't hurt to give it a shot.

So I read, and I read until my eyes fell out of my face, that got me about 75% of the way through, that was yesterday. I finished the rest of the book today and I have to say out loud how much I enjoyed it.

So what's it all about you ask? I can't imagine there are any of you reading this that have never had to deal with cancer. Cancer affects the people afflicted and their families and friends in so many ways. In "Don't Tell Anyone", Laurie Boris introduces us to Estelle Trager, a strong-willed, old-school, Yiddish slinging (and most of all stubborn) mama who was able to hide (of all things) ever enlarging tumors until a bout with pneumonia lands her in the hospital and her family gets involved. We meet her son Adan, his wife Liza and her favorite son Charlie and the unusual dynamic of these three main characters, along with years old secrets interwoven in their attempt to care for Estelle. There are a number of complexities to the story line that offer surprise, suspense, a few other characters to spice things up a bit more and when it was all over I couldn't help but wonder how many readers might find some significant similarities to real world situations they've lived through.

I must applaud the character development as well as the story arc. This ended up being a page turner, a true gem for the adult reader and a book I can easily recommend.'

If you click on the book cover graphic, it will transport you to Amazon where you can read the synopsis yourself and the many terrific reviews but don't waste your time with that, click on the buy now option and support this indie author and get yourself a great read. Oh, and please, tell everyone about it!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Maximum Ride: The Final Warning

This fourth installment of the young adult oriented Maximum Ride series does not disappoint fans of Max, Fang, Gasman, Iggy, Total or any of the characters we've grown to love in this series.

Patterson uses the story line of this novel to raise awareness of global warming as the gang finds themselves on a government mission in Antarctica to assist in research. Of course, they find themselves being hunted by an devious group of mechanical mercenaries. Patterson also digs deeper into the idea of a romantic bond between Max and Fang.

I really love this series so far, mostly because I really care about these characters and I have to say, this is arguably the best written of the books in this series up to this point.

Another very quick read that I believe you will enjoy if you've ventured into this series.

Monday, March 17, 2014

David and Goliath

I first learned of Malcolm Gladwell when he was the keynote speaker at a conference I attended in San Diego, I believe in 2006, around the time his second book, "Blink" came out.

I recall being captivated listening to him as he challenged my thoughts and offered such provocative ideas. I picked up both "The Tipping Point" (his first book) and "Blink" shortly after seeing him and loving both of them.

To date, I've read all of his books and every time a new copy of The New Yorker shows u at the library, I look at the table of contents to see if there is anything there by him (or David Sedaris).

In this book, Gladwell challenges our ideals and perceptions of advantages and disadvantages, starting with one of the most famous "underdog" stories of all, David and Goliath.

In addition to getting me to think and re-think, Gladwell always manages to teach me something or steer me in the direction of wanting to learn more about something and this is something I almost crave when reading non-fiction that isn't biography or autobiography.

You may not always agree with Gladwell's train of thought or ideas, Gladwell provides a platform where your thought and ideas can be challenged and revisited and that for me, is what keeps the mind vital.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blood Memory

If you love to read and are looking for a great book, forget the rest of this review and just go get this book and have at it! WOW! What a fabulous piece of writing. I have not read a book so well written in quite some time. A colleague mentioned this author stating that "his work is hard to stop reading" and having claimed to call in sick one day just so she can finish one of his books. I thought that was insane when I heard it but at several points I had to think twice about going to work in favor of just staying at home and reading; it's just that good.

This book revolves around the life of one Catherine "Cat" Ferry who works as a "forensic odontologist" (she knows a lot about teeth and bite marks) and has about as much drama in her life as one can as her work takes her "into the minds of rapists and murderers", reminders of her past haunt her and along with her love of Vodka and her controversial personal life, push her to the brink when she suffers a dramatic panic attack at a crime scene. This turn of events leads to a trip to her childhood home where she stumbles upon a decades old clue into her father's death when she was just a young girl. From there, one can come up with such a story and tell it with such amazing clarity - this book is truly a work of art.

I will say that it is not for the faint of heart, there are some serious issues dealt with in this book, especially those related to child abuse. However, Isles approaches the subject matter in a careful, sensitive, and extremely well researched manner. So looking forward to the next time I read one of his books. WOW!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Good Guy

It's been a few years since I read a Koontz book. While at the library on Sunday, I came across the Koontz selections and decided it was time, I looked for one that was not part of any "series" and something struck me about this cover - so I grabbed it.

For those of you who may hold Koontz in a "horror/fiction" box, this book (many others as well) does not fit in that category or box. This is a thriller and thrill it did.

Tim Carrier, a seemingly simple mason stops by his favorite watering hole for a beer after a long day's work and in no time, his life become a circumstance of being in that place he was so many times before but at that particular moment in time.

What happens next takes you through 95% of the story and it's a wild combination of running for your life as Carrier attempts to preserve the life of a stranger and when the story ends, we learn more about Tim and the unusual circumstances that triggered the whole thing.

Earlier this morning, I was at the point where I had 30 pages left and was literally on the edge of my seat. I had to pause because I wanted to preserve the feeling I had. You know, the feeling when you are reading a great book that you just want to last. But of course, I also wanted to finish it, to see how it all comes to an end and feel what I am left with. I decided to pack it up, head off to work early and finish it at the office, This way, I was able to savor the anticipation. In the end, it did not disappoint!

I really loved this book, there was something about the characters that I was able to relate it was just written so well. I highly recommend this.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Double Cross

As I read my way through this year and play catch up, I am also working my way through the James Patterson books, a difficult thing to keep up with considering how many he releases each year.

Double Cross is part of the "Alex Cross" series, Cross is a detective who has been in and out of the game on local and federal levels. Previously retired and in a private practice as a psychologist. Of course, Cross can't leave well enough alone and seems to have no regard for the impact his career has had on his family. Sucked back in, Cross encounters a familiar killer and another nut (actually band of nuts).

The book got off to a slow start but did begin to pick up around half way through but aside from not ending so great (in my opinion), I felt there were so many loose ends here that I can only attribute to what seems to be lazy writing and lack of attention to basic detail.

I've read a few of the books that came after this, and there are many - around 60 or so, which keeps me hopeful that Patterson has not run out of steam. However, this was the 10th and final release from 2007 and I question if perhaps he was less focused on quality control then quantity of output during this period.

I think there are too many other good books out there, including many by Patterson himself, for me to tell you this is worth the short investment in time it takes to read but whatever time it takes is time that could be spent in something really worth reading.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ace Frehley: No Regrets

Subtitled, "A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir"; and that it is. Look,. if you are looking for some kind of brilliance or magic or historical relevance, let me recommend the Benjamin Franklin bio by Walter Isaacson. If you are a fan of Kiss, this book is for you. If you are a fan of Ace Frehley, this book is for you.

Unlike say, the Warren Zevon book I read (and reviewed) recently, I think the reach for this book is far more selective. Any stories related in any way to the band Kiss are a little suspect. Here, you have a founding member who over the years and through two terms of service with the band has had much public controversy on the words of others. In No Regrets, at least there is the opportunity to hear Ace speak his peace, provide his take, tell his story.

Of course, we also get the whole story, from birth to current, it's an autobiography, and that's the point and thankfully, we get some pictures! I hate when there are no pictures!

The quality of writing is not brilliant here folks. This is not a masterpiece, it simply is what it is. A simple telling of the story of a man who just happened to find his way into one of the biggest rock and roll bands of all time and still had to live a life and find his way through battling his own demons. It's a quick read and worth the time if you like this sort of thing and/or you are a fan.

Friday, February 21, 2014

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

When Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy" album was released, I was not yet 14, but from the moment I heard the music on that record I was hooked (I had not yet been familiar with the two previous albums he released but knew that some of his songs were recorded by other artists such as Linda Ronstadt).

Hard to meet anyone who doesn't know what is probably his most popular song, "Werewolves of London" from Excitable Boy but the Title Track has an equally catchy hook and so many of the other songs just resonate with what makes music appealing (at least to me); I became a fan as soon as I heard this record (I'm certain that Dan O'Connor was responsible).

In the early 1980's, David Letterman had Zevon on and they became fast friends (I wasn't aware how close they became until I read the book) and Zevon had many appearances over the following two decades. After reading the book, I went back and viewed many of them on YouTube and while I recall some of them from seeing them when they aired, they all took on so much more meaning after reading this book.

This isn't any ordinary biography, it was written, more appropriately, compiled, by his ex wife and lifelong friend and mother of his children. The book takes us through a chronology of Zevon's life through the commentary of the people who interacted with Zevon, his friends, his confidantes, his family, his lovers, his colleagues and of course, Crystal Zevon. Throughout the book, all of the commentary is cleverly laced with entries from Zevon's personal journal - it really gives a full set of perspectives and really tells his story in all of it's detail - the good, the bad, the ugly and the very ugly. In fact, one of Warren's wishes left to Crystal was that she tell the story, "even the awful, ugly parts".

Reading this book brought me on a journey not just through the life of one man, but all of those that were along for the ride, no matter how far they traveled. I got to take that ride with them from the outside looking in, only I now got to hear what what happened on the inside. It wasn't always pretty but it was a human journey and shows that despite the glory of fame or the quest for it, we are all human and we make decisions, we must accept the consequences of those decisions, we ache, we love, we err, we want, we live and we die.

This is easily one of my favorite biographical books that I've ever read. In the weeks ahead I will dig back into the catalog of Zevon and listen to that music again knowing that I will hear it like I've never heard it before.

If you want to check out some Good Warren Zevon footage, check at "Warren Zevon Addict's" page on you tube, CLICK HERE to get there.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

You've Been Warned

The warning should be, skip over this book, it kinda sucks and I have plenty of others for you to read. I guess when you release as many books a James Patterson, there are bound to be clunkers every once in a while. Released in 2007, this was his 47th book, one of 6 released that year. I've read the 46 books that were released before this one and going on memory, this is the worst of the batch - only one I can recall not worth reading.

The book is billed as "psychological suspense" but never came off as anything but a story that might work for a cheesy Lifetime movie. None of the characters are strong, none of the devices are used effectively and absolutely nothing is believable about anything in this book.

I think the only redeeming quality of this book is that it is written the way that Patterson writes, so it reads quickly; at least you won't feel like you wasted too much time reading it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Crash and Burn

I happen to be an Artie Lange fan, I listened to just about all of his run on the Howard Stern Show, I've seen just about all of the movies he's made, seen his stand-up specials, read both of his books...I'm a fan. I think the mistake so many people might make as they pass this book in  the store or overlook it in any way is to think it can only be appreciated by a fan, by someone who knows who Artie Lange is; this couldn't be further from the truth.

I should warn you, this is a very dark book. One of the most amazing things about the quality of the writing is how you will find yourself laughing out loud, at times, busting a gut and while doing so, a brief moment of guilt might pass over you realizing that you are laughing at a book so filled with darkness. the guilt will only last a second before you recall this book was written by a comedian. Another thing this book will do is make you cry, that is, if you are a human being and have a soul.

More than anything else, Crash and Burn is a text book about addiction. this book will make you feel and it won't always be comfortable. I really believe everyone should read this, there is so much that can be learned.

I've always felt one of Artie's great gifts is his ability to tell a story and he does not disappoint in this book. I think the only part of the book I didn't like is that it is a true story. I so greatly wish that Lange did not have to wrestle with these demons but I am so happy to see that for now, he has them at bay and I hope more than anything, that he can do that for the long haul.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

One Summer: America, 1927

I am a Bryson fan, I loved so many of his previous books, especially "A Walk in the Woods", which is just hysterical and brilliant.

In his "A Short History of Nearly Everything", Bryson offers what I heard others refer to as a "compendium of science for adults." It was a pretty exhaustive alternative to a textbook that I found educational, interesting and presented in a style that after reading many of his other writings, can only be attributed to him - which turned out to be what made it so wonderful.

When I heard that Bryson wrote a book about America in the 1920's, I was immediately drawn to the idea of reading it partly because I have had a fascination with that period in American history since taking a class called "The Jazz Age" in high school (props to my teacher at the time, Mr. Slow) and partly because I am a Bill Bryson fan and hadn't read him in a few years.

There is a lot of ground covered in this book as it focuses on the summer of 1927 but of course covers the surrounding years as they relate to the stories and people he speaks of.

This book was filled with a lot of interesting stuff and there were some wonderful moments of Bryson being Bryson, but it was long, the type face was smaller than I would have liked and as much as It pains me to say it, was just not as captivating overall as the other books I have read by him.

Among the covered are Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Al Capone, Al Jolson, the advent of Television and Film, the beginning of the stock market crash and more. It's not always an easy read but I don't regret reading it and would even encourage it if any of these subjects or the time period in general are of any interest to you.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Maximum Ride - Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

This series is marketed at young adults but I happen to enjoy them very much. This, the third in the series follows the adventures of an interesting group of kids. How interesting you ask? if I told you they can fly, would that peak your interest a bit more?

The classic Patterson easy to read short chapters, interesting characters that you will care about and a modern day take on science fiction thriller make the three books in this series worth the short investment in time it will take to read them (I started reading this book yesterday morning and finished this evening).

This title had a number of "oh, shit!" moments. The story and the book really move along, it's very well written...I'm impressed how Patterson so easily adapts to a younger audience without alienating adults.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Teacher Man

Unlike the millions of folks who read Frank McCourt's first two books, Angela's Ashes and 'Tis, I found a copy of his third offering in a closet in my basement. I recalled this copy being part of a swag bag from an "Employee Recognition Event" at the college where I work.

Teacher man in a memoir that tells of McCourt's 30 year teaching career in the public high schools (mostly) of New York City. My favorite thing about this book is how honest it is. I think anyone can read this book, especially a teacher, and know it was honest - I really loved that a lot; I don't recall a single moment where I felt a story was even a tiny bit embellished.

I was reading today while having soup at Panera. I don't recommend reading anything that would make you laugh while eating soup. I wish there was a warning label somewhere on this book; "NS: Do not read while eating soup". I make have done a spit take as a result of not having this warning in advance!

I am pretty sure anyone that has taught and even aspiring teachers will enjoy this book. I night even go so far as to recommend it as required reading for those demographics and in that lies my one critique. I don't see this book as having broad appeal.

Regardless, I really enjoyed the book - and I hope if you are considering it, that you will too.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lean Mean Thirteen

A few days ago I finished the 13th installment of the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. These books are not works of fancy literature, but, if like me, you've grown to enjoy the characters in these books, you'll enjoy this one for the same reasons. I laughed out loud a number of times reading this and found myself entertained enough to not regret reading the book and to continue with the series. I think the book does what it is supposed to do and every now and again, you want an fairly easy, mindless read (I don't mean this to be insulting in any way) - these books will give that to you and if you are a regular read of the series, all the more fun because you get to hang with Stephanie, Lula, Ranger, Morelli, and others. If I had one criticism, I'd ask Evanovich to stop re-introducing each of the characters with every book. I suppose the reason is to make each independent of the others so that one may pick any one up as their first time with this series and not be lost. For those of us that had read all of them along the way, I think it's a drag. Perhaps start each with an appendix, or a reference guide to the characters within so that us "regulars" can skip past and get to the story.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Having seen the entire TV series without ever reading the books, I decided to take a stab (pun intended) at this series to see the genesis of the Dexter character, learn how they adapted the story line, and of course, hopefully read a good book.

Up until about half way through this first book, the TV series not only adapted the story as written, but lifted it almost exactly as it happened. The latter half, especially the ending, was a far less literal adaptation but it was clear to me (and will be to you if you watched the series as to how they adapted the story).

I think one of the greatest challenges for me after having seen what was a terrific series (except for the finale which almost blew the entire series (for me, from a story telling perspective) was whether or not the writing could hold my attention feeling like I might be able to predict what might happen. In the end, especially the very end of the book, I have to say that I enjoyed reading this and will at least check out the next one.

I think where Lindsay succeeds most is his ability to weave the dark side of the Dexter Morgan character through what Melissa Niksic of the Vine voice states, "a blend of dark humor, intense drama, mystery and suspense, and good old-fashioned blood and gore." I think this particular balance helps the book flow quite easily, keeps the reader at a high level of engagement and keeps the story fresh.

I look forward to the next book, "Dearly Devoted Dexter" sometime up the road.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Night Circus

Back in January of 2013, Sicilian Mama reviewed this book on this  blog as part of her favorite books of 2012. Her review was part of what made me want to read this book and I thought I would include what she wrote here:

"The Night Circus - Have you ever read a book that you were afraid to put down because you were afraid you were going to miss something? That's how Erin Morgenstern's debut novel was for me. It has mixed review on Goodreads, but I absolutely loved it. I recommended it to pretty much everyone I know who loves to read and I even bought it as gifts for my besties for their birthdays. In fact, I just went out and bought a copy for myself so I could reread it again. That's how amazing it was - I'll reread it less than a year after reading it for the first time! Seriously, though, it was magical. Truly magical."

I must agree with the "truly magical" statement, on several different levels but for me, the most important one being the writing/storytelling. This was a rare book where not only did the imagery provide a visual backdrop, but it somehow provided a feel, at times haunting, at times exciting and always, magical.

As I recently mentioned to all of you, I personally don't like the writing device that takes the reader back and forth to and from different periods in time, Morgenstern does that in this book but at least the time periods are relatively close together - which for me, made it easier to follow and more tolerable. I don't know that the general public has nearly as hard a time as I do with this technique but for me, it takes a little bit away from the overall reading experience. That said, the things that were really great about this book were really great. I don't think it's a stretch to call it a period piece but it didn't feel dated, I felt pulled right in and a part of it all.

I can't say the story itself was flawless, but I guess if you pick carefully enough, you can find flaws in anything. The good news here, they don't affect how I feel about this book. If you love to read and have your imagination challenged while still providing s story that makes sense, and has you feeling something, I highly recommend this; I still have chills from some of this!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Step On a Crack

Patterson cranks out so many books using what I assume is something of an outsourcing model, that I am constantly amazed at how the quality control piece of the puzzle works so efficiently.

I had been lax for the last couple of years and fell behind in my quest to make it through all of his works and found myself in an offering from 2007, and the 46th of his books that I've now read.

Step on a Crack introduces a new series of books featuring the character Michael Bennett, a detective and father of 10 adopted children of various cultural backgrounds.

While at it's core, the Patterson formula is at work here, there are some wonderful components involving Bennett's family, an Au Pair that I suspect will continue to appear in future Bennett books, and a short but elegant introduction to the story featuring a beloved first lady and President.

the typical emotions one might feel in a detective/thriller were significantly amplified my triggers that come from relatable, real-life situations that had me so deeply ensconced in the story that I completed this novel the day after I began reading it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking

Disclaimer:  The author of this book, Erin Dionne, is a personal friend of mine, that affects this review in exactly two ways: 1. It's extremely unlikely I would have read a "Young Adult" novel had it not been written by a friend. 2. Had I not liked this book, I'd not have published a review.

I'll start this with the one line I wrote on Facebook to the "Books I've Read" section: "While this book is marketed as "Young Adult", if you like to read, appreciate good writing and a good story, this is really a wonderful book."

Moxie was just an ordinary middle school kid preparing to have that one last fun summer with her best friend Ollie before they left for different high schools and as the author put it, "social gravity" did what it always does. An unexpected visit from an impractically dressed red headed woman changed the landscape of the next two weeks (and probably the rest of) her life by landing her, and my default, her pal Ollie, in the middle of one of the great mysteries of the 20th century, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Art Heist.

Through one of the best Boston based band soundtracks, a simple set of creative and well crafted characters and a backdrop that features one of the most historic cities and it's great landmarks, the author brings us along with Moxie and Ollie on an adventure that made me curious, taught me something, got me to really care about the characters and try to guess what would happen next, it made me tap my feet to the sound of the music and sing along as I imagined them in the scenes as they played through my mind, it made me laugh, several times and it even brought some tears.

This is a well imagined story that I had a very hard time putting down, a real page turner that I truly loved. There are a number of other reviews out there on Amazon and other book sites but I suggest reading the book before the reviews, many of them reveal more than they need to about the wonderful cast and while they don't ruin it in any way, I think it's more fun to just jump in...the water is warm and it will feel great, I promise!
I will take the liberty of lifting something from the author's blog regarding the music I refer to:

"I've made a playlist of some of Moxie's favorite songs. They were songs that I listened to a lot while I was writing the book, songs that Moxie listens to in the novel, and there's even one that Moxie doesn't like. You figure out which one that is. You can find the playlist on Spotify if you're into that (you can follow me there--bostonerin). If you're not, here's the track list:"

Aerosmith – Sweet Emotion
Aerosmith – Seasons of Wither (Live)
Dropkick Murphys – I'm Shipping Up To Boston
Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Where'd You Go
Dropkick Murphys – Memorial Day
The Del Fuegos – Don't Run Wild
The Cars – You Might Think
The Standells – Dirty Water
Letters To Cleo – Cruel To Be Kind
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Impression That I Get - Album Version (Edited)
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Someday I Suppose
J. Geils Band – Freeze-Frame - 2006 - Remaster
The J. Geils Band – Musta Got Lost - Live
The Cars – Good Times Roll
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – I Want My City Back
Dropkick Murphys – The Boys Are Back
Aerosmith – Come Together
Dropkick Murphys – Sunshine Highway
Dann Russo – Ruby Red Hair
Letters To Cleo – I Want You To Want Me

" If you're not familiar with these tunes, I hope you check them out. I'd love to know if you find a new favorite."

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Up All Night: My Life and Times in Rock Radio

It’s hard for me to be overly critical about this book because of the author. Carol Miller, a long time host rock radio personality in New York, was someone I listened to from the mid-seventies through most of the nineties when I left NYC to move to MA. Not only was I a big fan but I had a huge crush on her, what dude in their right mind didn’t? And, I had the great privilege of meeting her when I was at a party for the band Europe when they received their gold record for their album “The Final Countdown”. At that event, I actually had the chance to sit and speak with Carol Miller for a few minutes, she was super cool and I did my best to not be a complete buffoon.

I enjoyed reading this book very much because Carol Miller means something to me. So when she talks about things like her personal life, battles with illness and cancer, it was like reading about a dear friend who went through all of this deep stuff and you wished you could have been there to help them through, it was emotional.

When she talked about the challenges of being a woman in a male dominated field, about the disgusting abusive situations she was put in by management, I wanted to go beat the crap out these assholes for messing with one of my peeps. More important, it put a real perspective on a very real situation that still lingers in society today where woman are simply not treated as equals on so many levels.
From the title of the book, “Up All Night: My Life and Times in Rock Radio”, I was expecting some great larger than life stories about the larger than life rock and roll stars that I listened to Carol Miller play on the radio for so many years. The stories that were included did not disappoint, there were a few doozies for certain. I just felt that the title led me to believe that is what would dominate the book and perhaps its part my fault for the assumption, but I also must blame the publishers and editors who moved forward the final manuscript under this title.

As someone who grew up in the area where carol Miller gained her popularity and radio persona, I think the book works overall. As I’ve implied above, if you were a listener, you have a relationship and care about the personal stuff enough that it all works just fine; like I said, I enjoyed reading this book and in fact, finished it in three days. I question the overall appeal to someone that might not know who Carol Miller is or only knows of her peripherally. I question if the balance of the material in the book is enough to appeal to that broader audience.
For certain, the personal stuff will touch all people, it’s all very real and it’s quite likely that most readers will be able to associate with the stories of Miller’s life and perhaps that will be enough; I hope so only because I would like to see this book sell well for two reasons: I am a lifelong fan of Carol Miller and she deserves for it to be successful and, 5% of the proceeds are being donated to breast cancer research.

I would love to have read a book that was all about the radio stuff and the music and radio business interactions. I think it would even have worked if the personal stuff stayed put but there were a hundred or so pages more of the music stuff, it wouldn't have made the book too long - though I guess from the publisher end, it would have cost more to produce, but then again, if it sold enough more units to offset the additional cost...who knows? Not me, I can only say that in the end, if I invest the time to read a book, I need to get a return and when all was said and done, I got my money's worth.
Here's a brief interview she did while promoting the book:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Everything Is Illuminated

I recently heard of this book listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour on NPR; Linda Holmes was talking about it and I was intrigued and requested it from the library. Only once I received it did I realize it was over a decade old - but I hadn't read it so it was new to me!

Probably makes more sense to talk about what I didn't like about because there was only one thing about it that I didn't love - and that's the way the story is written. I've never liked the kind of novels that go back and forth from one point in time to a completely different point in time (ore more than one other period) and go back and forth. I know this is not an uncommon technique and in some cases it works better than others but as a general rule, I am not a fan - I have a hard time keeping track of it all!

That said, I found this book entertaining and while dubbed a work of fiction, if one were to reveal some time later that it was actually biographical (or autobiographical), it wouldn't surprise me.

I liked the story and the characters seemed very familiar, which I attribute to growing up in Brooklyn and before I left in 1997,  had been immersed in Eastern European culture simply because it was where I was. I suspect the fact that Foer was in his mid-twenties when he wrote this accounts for some of the tone (especially the comic relief) and while I would be curious what this book would have been had he been 10-20 years older when he wrote it, I don't have a problem with the end product.

For me, the most clever effect of the writing was being able to read about the Holocaust and still be able to laugh and not feel like a complete heal or disrespectful jerk. I attribute this mostly to the development of the characters who give voice to the story.

In the end, I found this book hard to put down and one of those reads that found myself slowing down as I was winding down only for the purpose of stretching it out so it didn't have to end. If you haven't yet read this one, I highly recommend it.